If someone came into your home uninvited and started taking your stuff, you would likely call the police. This is a boundary that you have, even if you haven’t formally decided it.
Boundaries are limits we have on other people’s behavior. They are what we will or will not tolerate.
You likely have many boundaries like me…
I do not allow people to smoke around me.
I do not allow people to hit me.
I enforce these boundaries, not by controlling other people, but by controlling myself.
If someone starts smoking, I will walk away. If someone starts hitting me, I will leave and call the police.
These are some of my boundaries but I do not have to walk around telling people not to hit me because if they do I will leave. I just know it.
Sometimes people confuse boundaries with controlling other people. They think that a boundary is when you tell other people what they must do. Sometimes they involve a threat such as something you will do to get back at them if they do not comply.
One example is saying: If you cuss at me, I'll punch you in the face.
True boundaries should not involve what you will do TO the other person. They should involve what you will do FOR yourself, to protect yourself.
True boundaries involve an if, then statement.
If you ________, then I will _________.
The key part of this is that “I will _________”. Threats involve doing something so unpleasant to retaliate (such as that punch to the face), that the other person is forced to comply with the threat or face a very negative consequence. Threats masked as boundaries attempt to change the other person’s behavior.
With a neutral boundary, their behavior is up to them and they are free to choose it.
You know what you will do if a boundary is crossed.
We cannot set a boundary in order to attempt to control other people. I mean, we can, people do it all the time, but you will make yourself miserable in the attempt.
Other people are free to do what they want. There is no governing body that prevents people from doing things we don’t like.
They are free to smoke. They are free to show up late. They are free to come over to my house unannounced. They are free to invite themselves to events. They are free to yell at me. They are free to cuss at me. They are even free to hit me.
Boundaries do not involve forcing people not to do these things; they involve what I will do if a boundary is violated.
If you smoke, I will leave.
If you cuss, I will hang up the phone.
If you come over uninvited, I will not answer the door.
If you hit me, I will call the police.
If you are more than 15 minutes late, I will leave without you.
I love myself enough to take care of myself.